Roy Cooper and Dan Forest face off in election debate


Tribune News Service

Democratic N.C. Governor Roy Cooper and Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.

Bethanie Simms, Contributing Writer

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic took center stage during the 2020 NC governor debate. Gov. Roy Cooper and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest faced off this past Wednesday, just one night before the dueling but separate Presidential Town Hall events. 

The debate stage marked by the pandemic included several social distancing measures: plexiglass partitions, and a declaration by the moderator that everyone in the room had tested negative for the virus. 

The challenger Lt. Gov. Forest, a Republican, backed by President Donald Trump, is running on a platform of religious gender normative, and conservative family values. Forest has defined himself as a father, a believer, a capitalist, a constitutionalist, a brother of a police officer and believer in the rule of law. 

Democratic incumbent, Roy Cooper, who has faced an uphill battle during his first time with an all-Republican legislature led by Forest, believes the pandemic has been his defining battle. 

Forest blamed Cooper, not the pandemic, for unemployment, crippling small business owners, increased suicides, drug and alcohol addiction, anxiety and depression. Forest added that Cooper is personally responsible for the death of the elderly in nursing homes who account for nearly 40% of all deaths in the state. 

“Dan, you treat nursing homes like an island. In that, everybody else can do whatever they want, and you can still protect nursing homes. That is not the way it works,” said Cooper.  

Forest said Cooper’s actions treats citizens “like 5-year-olds” stifling individual freedom. In July, Forest sued Gov. Cooper to overturn the “Safer at Home,” executive-order issued by Cooper. The order required NC residents to stay at home, close businesses, and mandated the wearing of masks. Forest lost that case. 

“When I’m governor, I would lift the mask mandate and allow individual freedom to decide whether they wear a mask… I don’t believe there is any science that backs that up. That’s my opinion,” said Forest in a speech prior to this debate. 

Cooper fired back, stating that Forest relies on information from “the dark corners of the internet” for his information rather than the overwhelming wealth of scientific data from our governmental institutions. 

“When you have people out there discouraging masks, when you have people out trying to prove that there’s not a pandemic, then you end up having more people who are infected. It could be a nursing home staff member, a visitor to the nursing home, those people go in and bring COVID-19 into the nursing home. That’s the problem it all works together,” said Cooper. 

Forest refused to address the point that nursing home workers brought the disease into facilities. Nor did he address children bringing it home from school and transmitting the virus to aging or vulnerable family members. Instead, Forest praised private schools for reopening. 

“Private schools have been open for 12 weeks in North Carolina, all over North Carolina, with no outbreak, no trouble from anybody,” said Forest. 

According to the state of North Carolina’s Health and Human Services website, to date, there have been 21 outbreaks in K-12 school facilities. Neither of them mentions college campus outbreaks, which have garnered national media attention. 

While Gov. Cooper clarified that it is his highest priority to get kids back in school and North Carolinians back to work, he wants to do so with caution.   

Gov. Cooper holds a growing double-digit lead over Forest and in early mail-in voting has a 75%  lead.